Letter to The Australian

I would like to point out a problem with Brendan O’Neill’s argument (“Silence of the Illiberal Lambs”, 5/10). He refers to students who burned copies of a newspaper containing a sexist cartoon as “highly intolerant individuals”. But what about the cartoon that these students protest against? If it was indeed a sexist cartoon, then it is guilty of intolerance towards women.

Similarly, Andrew Bolt’s unwillingness to consider views that differ from his own indicates that he, too, is an “intolerant individual”.

Given that patriarchial Western society denied women and displaced Indigenous people any voice on the public stage for hundreds of years, it seems ironic that O’Neill should denounce these groups for merely seeking fair, correct representation in today’s media.

Published in The Australian on 7 October 2011. It’s the second letter on this page.

O’Neill’s confusions

On Saturday, The Australian ran a comment piece by Brendan O’Neill in which he argues that ‘greens’ are anti-free speech by supposedly attempting to censor any hint of climate change scepticism. Some of the examples he uses include journalist Margo Kingston’s comment about climate change denialism being a crime against humanity. The comment was made in 2005 in the context of David Irving’s arrest for Holocaust denialism, and has already been used by plenty of commentators who think that ‘the green movement’ is trying to shut down free speech; including by O’Neill himself back in 2006.

O’Neill’s comment peice conveniently neglects to mention that while the occasional ‘green’ may have accused climate change sceptics of denialism akin to Holocaust denialism, one such sceptic has already gone several steps further in misappropriating the legacy of the Holocaust. I’m speaking, of course, of Lord Christopher Monkton. Perhaps O’Neill, as a recent arrival in Australian public debate, is not aware of Monkton’s comparison between Professor Ross Garnaut and Adolf Hitler. At a conference in Los Angeles in June this year, Monkton displayed a picture of a swastika beside a quote from Garnaut, and directly referred to Hitler (in relation to Garnaut) in his speech. Monkton’s act constituted misappropriation of Nazism on a much grander scale than anything that O’Neill has to complain about.

O’Neill is also guilty of a fallacy in his article. He assumes that because Al Gore and Margo Kingston are part of what he describes as ‘the green movement’, and that because they see climate change denial as an offence, that therefore the ‘green movement’ as a whole would like to censor the speech of climate skeptics. The ‘green movement’, or ‘greens’, in O’Neill’s usage, appears to be a generalisation applied to those who support the science of human-driven climate change, and therefore must include people from both sides of the political spectrum and from all walks of life who hold this view. The individuals that O’Neill mentions, however, do not speak on behalf of this diverse group of people, so quite apart from the tenuous nature of his argument, it is hardly accurate to attribute the views of non-representative individuals to an entire movement.

Frankly, the ‘green movement’ has bigger things to worry about than climate change deniers – namely, getting on with the business of mitigating the effects and slowing the process of climate change.